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<  Music  ~  "Blind But Now I See" Book excerpt

The whistle knows my name
Posted: Sat Sep 02, 2017 10:32 pm Reply with quote
Thousandaire Joined: 21 Apr 2008 Posts: 1000
Here's an excerpt from the biography of Doc Watson, where Ketch talks about the Old Crows' discovery by Doc Watson:

Musicians do not just revere Doc because he is a great musician. He is a catalyst in many of their careers, and has helped countless young artists. Scores of musicians find themselves saying, “It all started with Doc.” Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show is one such artist. His band had never recorded for a major record label when they met Doc. They had never even played a large concert, or recorded more than a brief demo recording. But Doc came across them on the streets of Boone, and their lives changed forever. Secor related the entire story about his band being “discovered” by Doc Watson in Boone, who himself had been “discovered” only a few miles down the road in much the same way by Ralph Rinzler four decades before.

The members of Old Crow Medicine Show moved to the mountains near Boone in the late 1990’s, learning from the locals. Secor described the result of their moonshine experiment. “We made all this liquor with a steam keg. We had the corn mash going for about 60 days, and everything was ready to roll on this project. We made the liquor on the night of July 4th, and then we drank almost all of it. And, on the morning of the 5th of July, we woke up really [messed] up and hung over, and it was somebody’s idea that we should go busk. I mean, we had played on the street corner in Boone before, but on the 5th of July, all the tourists were out, so we got it together, and about lunchtime we made it down to King Street.” The story so far seemed as if it could have taken place 70 years earlier, in the time of the Skillet Lickers and Jimmie Rodgers.

Secor continued to weave his tale. “We were playing in front of the pharmacy real hung over, that kind where you’re just still kind of drunk, and your mouth tastes terrible: splitting headache kind of stuff. We played for a couple of hours, at the end of which a woman came up and asked us a couple questions, and said, ‘Are you guys going to be here for a while? My dad really likes this kind of music.’ And we said, ‘Well, I don’t know if we will or not, but we’re here now.’ And she said, ‘I hope you’re here in 20 minutes.’ So she disappeared and she came back, and we saw her little red Jeep Cherokee pull up across the street from us, and then she walked her dad out. And there was Doc.”

Secor remembered, “Doc listened to us play on the corner there before walking in to have his lunch at Boone Drug, which has a great lunch counter. And right there on the street corner after we played a song called ‘Oh My Little Darling,’ which is an old folk song, he said, ‘That’s some of the finest old-time music I’ve heard in a long time. Boys, I’ve got a festival down in North Wilkesboro, and I’d love to have you on it.’ We said, ‘Gee, thanks Doc,’ and we took a picture with him. It was taken of us right there, and it was taken with infrared film, so Doc’s hair is cotton candy pink. I have a Mohawk, and Arthur Grimes is in the background, because he was dancing during the show, and about three of us are there.”

Doc had, in a few moments, done something that had never happened to him in all of the years he had played on the street corners. He heard something in their music, and he wanted to help them become great. The sound that Old Crow Medicine Show is able to produce live is unlike any other band; the sound of the moonshine and the mountains are an integral part of their music, as well as a certain intellectual worldview. Doc knew that they had it in them to become great. Since that moment, Old Crow Medicine Show went straight up the charts, and now sells thousands of records. It all started with a few words on a street corner.

The interesting thing about Secor’s story is that the band’s relationship with Doc pretty much started and stopped at that moment. The old sage had given them his blessing, but he did not have any more time to devote to them. He was busy enough taking care of his own family. He had already grown old and tired, and this was but a brief pause in his retirement. Secor remembered, “I feel like Doc’s shine to us started and stopped right then and there. It was more like recognition than it was a taking under the wing of.” It was a blessing by the chief priest of acoustic music, and it took them far. Secor said, “Doc gave us such a huge break, and gthat encounter on the street corner is why we moved to Nashville, is why we met the people who we met. I mean, we went from meeting Doc to playing on the Opry in about a year and a half’s time. Meeting Doc was this great point of acceleration. Things really lined up after that meeting with Doc. I mean, just bing, bing, bing. We did MerleFest. Well, we played just some little set on a lousy stage and nobody was there, but we busked, we got drunk, and we played out, we made our own stage. I’m not real crazy about MerleFest, actually. But we made the most of it, and somebody from Nashville, from the Opry, this lady named Sally Williams heard us, and we moved off the mountain less than four months later, after that gig.”

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"That's the whole principle of the Medicine Show ... you put your trust in the medicine, and you don't get beat up."
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